I am an organismal biologist specializing on the ecology, evolution, and development of amphibians. Current projects include research on the diversity of skeletal development, the formation of “vestigial” structures, symbioses between salamander embryos and green algae, limb development, lung development, and descriptive morphology. While this work is focused on a specific taxonomic group, it touches on many fields within biology.
Why study frogs, salamanders and caecilians? The group is often under-appreciated by the public, despite their fascinating diversity and critical ecological roles. Amphibians are interesting to evolutionary and developmental biologists because of their diverse life histories, which includes metamorphosis among many others. Amphibians are important to ecologists because they are in peril. Recent global declines in amphibian populations provide a frightening example of the effects of global change on biological diversity. Amphibians are a great topic of study for students because they are local. While my research has taken me to every continent (except Antarctica), I most enjoy learning about the animals found near my home. The East Coast of America contains a terrific diversity of amphibians. This diversity continues to provide answers to a wide range of biological questions; provided we know how to ask.
I also have worked extensively on science policy through the American Association for the Advancement of Science. My academic interest in science policy includes both the measurement of research-and-development impacts on society, and environmental and energy policy that addresses global changes attributable to human activity.